The La Russa Heartbreakometer
|Angel Pagan - CF||A.J. Pollock - CF|
|Joe Panik - 2B||Phil Gosselin - 2B|
|Matt Duffy - 3B||Paul Goldschmidt - 1B|
|Buster Posey - C||David Peralta - LF|
|Marlon Byrd - RF||Jarrod Saltalamacchia - C|
|Brandon Belt - 1B||Jake Lamb - 3B|
|Brandon Crawford - SS||Yasmany Tomas - RF|
|Gregor Blanco - LF||Chris Owings - SS|
|Tim Hudson - RHP||Chase Anderson - RHP|
We may have added a number of players to the roster, but there's no sign of any of them in the starting line-up for this evening's game. It'll be interesting to see how Hale opts to manage them: for some, such as Andrew Chafin and Allen Webster, it's fairly clear what their roles will be, but I will be more interested to see how Peter O'Brien and Socrates Brito are squeezed into the picture. Maybe, in order to get them at-bats we intend to play a couple of games with the rare [okay, never used] "four outfielder" defensive shift, perhaps leaving Nick Ahmed the sole player on the left side of the infield? Given the fly-ball heavy nature of some of our pitchers, might not be a bad idea...
Well, yes, it probably would be a terrible idea. Though like much of baseball, the concept of three outfielders and four infielders appears a concept born as much of history as one evolved through organic evaluation as being the best way to marshal your resources. Even if the defensive shift might date back as far as 1877, its rapidly escalating use - from about 2,300 in 2011, to over ten thousand times before the All-Star break this season - suggests there is still new ground capable of being broken. It's estimated to have saved over a hundred runs this year, showing that just because something was was rarely done before, doesn't necessarily make it a bad idea.
It's true that most balls in play are ground-balls, so you'd give up more hits. However, that is partly balanced out by the fact, balls hit to the outfield are much more likely to become extra-base hits. So the question is, whether converting more of those into outs would outweigh an increased number of singles? I dunno. That said, it would take an astonishingly brave manager to attempt such a radical re-alignment - and stick with it, in the face of what is bound to be criticism, every time a ball goes through the understaffed infield. Someone like the Colorado Rockies, with their massive outfield, might be the best location for such an experiment. Let's face it: they suck anyway. :)